NEW DELHI: It takes a mega airline to create a mega hub. Delhi, followed by Mumbai, have climbed several spots this year to become the world’s top two low-cost mega hubs, in terms of providing international connectivity by budget airlines, according to UK-based air consultancy firm OAG.
Bengaluru and Hyderabad also leapfrogged to make it to this list of top 25, which now comprises four Indian metros. This is thanks to the staggering number of flights domestic market leader IndiGo operates daily, close to 1,600, of which 150 are international.
Overall, IGI Airport is the world’s 13th and Asia’s biggest mega hub in terms of low cost and full service carriers’ together providing international connectivity. “IGIA is the highest ranked airport outside of the Americas, placed 13th, with Tokyo Haneda just behind and ranked 14th,” said the OAG report.
Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) and Bengaluru, at the 24th and 45th spots, respectively, were the two other Indian airports in the top 50 global mega hubs for budget and full service airlines together. Overall, 12 American and one Mexican airports occupied the top 12 mega hub ranks. Three Indian airports were in this list of top 50 hubs providing international connectivity on both budget and full service airlines.
The “dominant presence” of IndiGo propelled IGIA and CSMIA to the first and second places of low cost hubs in 2022. Bengaluru and Hyderabad figured at the 14th and 15th spots of low cost mega hubs. IndiGo was the “dominant carrier” accounting for 34% (Delhi) to 62% (Hyderabad) of flights.
In pre-Covid 2019, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad were at the sixth, 11th, 37th and 51st ranks of low cost mega hubs, respectively. IndiGo is now operating more flights than it did in 2019. It still has hundreds of planes on order and is likely to order more in the future.
Indian airports are all set to become bigger hubs as the Tata Group is consolidating its four airlines — Air India, Vistara, AI Express and AirAsia India — to create a mega carrier. Tatas are soon going to place an order for new planes for their AI-led business. IndiGo currently operates only single aisles and its new CEO Pieter Elbers hasn’t ruled out inducting wide bodies in the future.
Asked about competition from Tata airlines, Elbers had last week told TOI in the UAE: “It’s good the market in India will further develop and grow. With more capacity, there will be greater opportunities for newer Indian customers to start flying. The Indian market is big enough for both of us to develop here. I don’t see any issue with two big Indian carriers operating international flights in a country of the size and population of India. It will help us take some international traffic from foreign carriers.”